On Thursday, Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda said that there is an urgent need to closely review the implementation of the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) to ensure self-governance in scheduled areas through traditional gram sabhas.
Munda, along with Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Giriraj Singh, inaugurated the national conference on PESA here. He said it was the "first time in 25 years" that the two ministries were holding a joint meeting on the implementation of the Act in tribal-dominated states.
"When the whole country is celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, there is an urgent need to closely review the implementation of PESA on completion of its 25 years to ensure basic rights of tribals," the minister said. "There should be clarity among officials on how to implement the Act. First, officials of the two ministries involved in the implementation of the Act need to be trained. Many issues will emerge during the discussion over it," he added.
At the conference, senior officials admitted that there was a lack of awareness among the tribal communities and also the implementing officials about PESA. Munda said PESA seeks to protect the principle of "Jal, Jungle, Jameen (water, forest and land)" for tribals and is the basis of Atmanirbhar Bharat. It is imperative to strengthen and empower gram sabhas under PESA. But whatever system is evolved, it has to be in consultation with tribals, he said.
The strengthening and empowerment of the Gram Sabhas is imperative under PESA, the Minister elaborated. But whatever system is evolved has to be in consultation with the tribal people and not be imposed to ensure its proper integration with the tribal system, only then it can ensure successful implementation, he explained. Munda stressed upon the need to prevent land alienation of tribals for which a well organised data base has to be maintained.
Hence he emphasised the need for involving civil society and NGOs working for welfare of tribals to ensure better implementation of PESA “since they are more well-versed with the ground reality”. He also called for a joint conference of officials of the forest department, panchayati raj and tribal affairs for better coordination in implementation of PESA and the Forest Rights Act.
-With PTI Inputs